Reading in prayer

Some time ago I was speaking to a young Christian who admitted he was afraid to lead in worship. “Everybody is looking at me and I forget what I was going to say.”

“You can lead in prayer then,” I joked. “Everyone’s eyes will be closed.”

More seriously I added. “Why don’t you write your prayer out on Saturday night, and you can simply read it Sunday morning.”

He agreed to try that.

That Sunday he stood before the crowd, bowed his head, and read his prayer. All seemed to be well until the end of worship when I saw a gentleman make a beeline for me. I knew I was in trouble for something

“If anyone ever reads a prayer again,” he snarled, “I will quit this church!”

Sometimes my tongue gets the better of me. I looked at the angry worshiper and said: “So you peeked during prayer?”

Then I added: “I think God can guide us, just as certainly on Saturday evening when we prepare for worship as on Sunday morning when we stand and lead in worship.”

We would think poorly of a preacher who did not prepare his thoughts during worship. Why would we think there was some virtue in expressing a prayer, selecting songs, or making observations at the Lord’s Supper off the tops of our heads? Why must preparation be considered cold and calculated? The term “random preparation,” beloved, is an oxymoron!

One of the New Testament words for worship, leitorgeo, refers to those who serve in worship in a public way. The English word “liturgy” comes from this. The angels in heavenly worship serve God in this manner (Hebrews 1:7). So does Jesus (Hebrews 8:2). A song leader or preacher might be said to serve in this way today. Paul referred to himself as one who served “as a minister” in this very sense (Romans 15:16).

We who lead in worship should take it seriously. We should prepare spiritually (humility, reverence) and mentally (thinking over what we will say). While the Lord warns us against worshiping “to be seen by men” (Matthew 6:1,7,16), the thought that we worship to be seen by God should inspire the very best in us! “Do your best,” Paul urges us, “to present yourself to God as one approved” (2 Timothy 3:15). Why, in the name of all that is right and holy, would we present ourselves to God with less than our best?

I am not arguing that we limit worship leaders to the most talented or eloquent; simply that we who lead should offer the best that we have. If you know you are scheduled to lead in worship this Sunday, think of it as an opportunity on Saturday to drop to your knees and pray for guidance. Then, with pen and paper (or laptop) begin to plan what you will say.

Unlike the angry gentleman that Sunday, I think preparation to serve the Lord is an advantage.

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